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Here's a story that combines food and weather. Perfect.

Tornado wreaks havoc in suburbs of Birmingham

Roofs were ripped off houses, cars hurled across roads and trees uprooted after a tornado struck high street shops and suburban streets in Birmingham yesterday, injuring at least 12 people.

Rows of houses were left with gaping windows as the twister turned the sky a dull brown, tore Victorian turrets off a primary school, and littered the area with glass, bricks, furniture and everything from shoes to fruit, torn from shop displays.

Why food?  Well, Ladypool Road is where you will find the original Balti restaurants.

Here we are again

Sorry for the recent lack of postings.  I promise to try harder in future (well, maybe).

A few odds and ends from the last couple of weeks, then.

HeathFormer British prime minister Edward Heath died at the age of 89.  The obituaries all seemed to say the same thing - he was a grumpy old bloke who got Britain into the European Union and lost several elections.  The amazing thing was that someone with so little charisma or charm should have become prime minister.  The Economist found a splendid picture of Heath looking awkward and aloof (see right).

France seems to be suffering from a drought and a plague of locusts, they're sunbathing in the Arctic, and the UK is also short of water.

Cricket?  No, I don't seem to recall anything about that.

Hot hot hot

Warnhot Today the 'Very Hot Weather' warning is in force.  This is provided as a nannyish service for anyone who was not expecting it to be hot during the summer in a sub-tropical climate.  The invaluable advice is to drink water, take a rest, wear a hat and use sunscreen lotion.  Er, thanks... has its own 'Very Hot Weather' warning:

  • Members of the public are advised that shopping centres will be full of people wandering around aimlessly because it is so hot outside and so cool inside.
  • If you go into a bookshop to buy a book, you will find it particularly difficult today because members of the public will be occupying all available space by sitting on the floor reading books.
  • Swimming is out of the question because all pools will be full of people trying to keep cool by getting in the water and moving around randomly within a 5 metre radius.   

UPDATE: The Observatory currently (20 July) has a bizarre combination of warnings in force:


So if you got out now you can simultaneously get very wet and heatstroke.  There's something wrong there, I feel.

Battle of wits

One big difference between shopping in the UK and Hong Kong is the degree of consumer protection that exists.

For example, in the UK shops cannot advertise a price reduction unless the goods were sold at the higher price for a certain period, and they must state the price per kilogramme or litre for food items.  Not in Hong Kong. 

Hence, Park'n'Shop don't have to draw attention to the fact that a 1 litre bottle of their own-brand olive oil costs HK$70 per litre, whilst a 500 ml bottle costs HK$60 per litre.  Yes, most customers are able to figure it out (at least if they are spending their own money) but why should we have to do so.  I suppose that the only explanation for this bizarre pricing policy is that PnS are using these prices merely to establish a benchmark from which they can advertise reductions - one week it was 'buy one, get one free' on 250 ml (effective price HK$42 per litre), then it was 'three for HK$60' on the 500 ml bottle (HK$40 per litre).

Another random example is that Giordano sell belts officially priced at HK$100 each.  However, they actually seem to sell them either at HK$60 ("40% off") or HK$50 ('buy one, get one free').  If they ever sell them for the stated price of HK$100 it is probably only for a day or two after one special event ends and before the next one starts.  This would be illegal in the UK, where the government does its very best to protect people from sharp practice on the part of retailers, apparently figuring that they are unable to do this for themselves.

Well, I can probably separate a genuine bargain from a imaginary one, but comparing the price of products with both metric and imperial measures in a variety of different sizes does sometimes tax my brain.  However, I'm not holding my breath waiting for this type of labelling to appear in my local Park'n'Shop.


A curious postscript to my recent rant about trying to order stuff from companies with websites that don't work very well.

The goods that were sent to the less well-known New Territories in Canada have finally turned up with 'try Hong Kong' scrawled on the label.  Good thinking, that man.  After my complaint they had sent me a replacement package, so I seem to be up on the deal.

And, joy of joys, the company that failed to fax me their price list did respond to my 2nd email with a reply email containing a copy of their price list. 


I guess I have to say something about what happened in London yesterday.

The British government have been saying for a long time that it was a matter of "when" rather than "if" there was a major terrorist incident in London, and sadly they have been proved right.  Anyone who lived or worked in London when the terrorist threat came from Ireland will not be surprised that it was the transport system that was attacked.  As well as the large number of casualties, it causes huge disruption, and it seems inevitable that there will now be regular closures of stations because of suspicious packages.  Travelling across London is not a lot of fun at the best of times, and when you factor in service disruptions it gets even worse - though people soon become proficient at figuring out alternative routes.

I watched some of the 'rolling news' coverage on BBC World.  Lots of people talking without actually saying anything (because at that time no-one knew exactly what had happened).  The same footage of nothing much happening, repeated endlessly.  So-called experts making generalised comments about these type of incidents.  Basically pointless, because the known facts could be summarised in a five-minute bulletin, but I suppose that now they can do 'rolling news' they feel obliged to do it.   

Hong Kong Storm Warning

Regular readers may know that I am not a big fan of thunderstorm warnings

What's the point of them?  If the storm is actually in progress you can probably work that out for yourself, and they usually only issue a warning when the sky is already dark, minutes before the inevitable downpour (such as at 2 o'clock this afternoon).  Er, thanks - I'd never have guessed that it was going to rain. 

Then they seem curiously reluctant to withdraw the warning after the rain stops.  I spent most of this afternoon stuck inside an office with no sight of the sky, but by the time I went home there was no sign of a storm and no evidence of recent rainfall.  It's now just after 9 pm and there is still no sign of rain here, though I have to admit that there was a solitary flash of lightning about half an hour ago.  Yet the thunderstorm warning has been in force continously for seven hours and is supposed to last till 10 pm.

The only reason I care is that when the thunderstorm warning is in force they close outdoor swimming pools, including the one here where I should be right now, instead of writing this nonsense.   

What on earth would be wrong with closing the pool if there was lightning in the vicinity, but staying open if the weather stayed fine?  Nothing at all, I think you'll find.  Unfortunately the nanny state thinks otherwise.

How things work

A familiar story in Hong Kong:  You call the 'customer service' number, select English and then listen to all the many options that you don't want.  Eventually you are allowed to speak to someone.  They decide that speaking to a gweilo is far too scary, and promise that an "English speaking" person will call you back.  Several hours later, if you're lucky, someone may call you back.  Or, then again, maybe they won't.

Welcome to the world of Customer service weasels.

The pain comes later

Well, London won.  We can now look forward to seven years of stories about construction delays as they struggle to build all the facilities they have promised.  Then many more years of paying the bills for all those facilities that really aren't required, as residents of Sydney, Athens, etc., now realize that perhaps it wasn't such a good idea.

Politicians are drawn like moths to the bright lights of the Olympics, seemingly unable to recognize that spending vast sums of money on an event that lasts a few weeks is not really a great idea.  Or at least not for a city that is already one of the most famous on the planet.  Though I suppose it means they will finally build Crossrail.

Amusing to see Ken Livingstone and Tony Blair (plus failed Tory politican Seb Coe) working together.  When they finally agree on something I suppose it's inevitable that they should be wrong...   

I have no ill-feelings towards the French, but Paris has been the overwhelming favourite for so long that it's rather entertaining to have an 'upset', and the bookmakers ending up looking a bit stupid (as recently as last week Paris was 6-1 on) though I don't suppose many people place bets so they probably don't care.

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